11 Road Rules To Master The (Realistic) Road Trip

Including how to make what is known as a "salty Armageddon."

September 5, 2017 ● 2 min read

By Richie Nakano | Image Vinata via iStock

When was the last time you spontaneously packed up and hit the road? 

One of the essential tenets of summertime is a car stuffed with salty snacks and cold drinks, a playlist no one can agree on, a questionable air conditioner, and only a vague destination in mind. And sure, we've passed up Labor Day, but you meant to see more of the wilderness this year. THERE'S STILL TIME. You've got a few good weeks left, and you don't have to drive the whole country to do it right. Set an admirable goal: Food-centric road trips are the best road trips, and every argument about driving to Banff in Alberta or coasting the Bourbon Trail to New Orleans can be settled by suggesting a tour of the best fish taco stands in Southern California. (I'm biased, but it's a much better idea.) 

Life on the road can take its toll on the uninitiated. You have to be willing to ebb and flow, to accept the hiccups as they arise—sometimes you gotta eat at McDonald's, suck it up, dude— so don't be the person that drinks too much too fast, and don't forget to pitch in. Snacks, gas money, and time behind the wheel are a group responsibility.  

After spending the better part of the last few years traveling around the country for events, strapped into vans and planes and boats with other chefs, I have acquired the collected wisdom:   

1. Just because you can fit four adult humans in a hotel room, it doesn't mean that you should. The room is going to smell weird as hell and if you're the last person to hit the shower, it’s gonna be swampy. Spring for the extra room.  

2. If anyone tries to tell you that the AC is up too high, they’re wrong. Never let them bring it up again.  

3. No smoking in the car. Ever. Someone is going to get a hangover at some point and the stale smell of smoke, well, you know where that leads.  

4. Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, while delicious, will cause the car's beverage supply to deplete faster than usual. This is problematic when you’re 200 miles from the next gas station. Cheeto with caution, not abandon.

5. Depending on how packed the car is, someone will have to sit in an uncomfortable seat, or with their foot area packed with a cooler. This seat can be volunteered for in exchange for getting to choose the music or eat the fries at the bottom of the bag.

6. You can’t cook in a car—but you can use a cooler as a hot box. Texas barbecue holds nicely in a cooler for snacking on the long road between rest stops.

7. If anyone tries to play the license plate game they are banned from all future road trips.  

8. Skip the Vegas road trip. Head for the mountains. The road to Vegas doesn't have any shade on it.  

9. In-N-Out Animal Style fries, while delightful, are impossible to eat in a moving vehicle. Pull over and eat them with a fork like a civilized human.  

10. Stop often. It's nice to get to your final destination quickly, but stretching your legs and catching roadside details will work wonders for the group (in terms of not murdering each other).  

11. It may not be immediately evident, but you can take all of the almost empty bags of snacks and Iron Chef them together into a single, unholy bag of salty Armageddon.